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Expert Tips For Minimizing The Keto Flu

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If you’ve ever considered the Metabolic Advantage Diet, you’ll know that it’s a plan rooted in the ketogenic lifestyle. What you might not know, however, is that changing your diet to a ketogenic diet isn’t exactly easy.

See, switching to a ketogenic diet literally switches your primary fuel source from glucose (sugar) to fat and ketones. In this situation, you’ll experience some side effects so the key to your success will be knowing the best ways to deal with them.

To come in this article, I’ll discuss some of the best ways that you can minimize the impact of the transition, while avoiding much of the dreaded “keto flu.”

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The Keto Flu

If you’ve ever considered using a ketogenic diet, you’ve probably heard of the “keto flu.” This describes a period where you’re transitioning from a carb-based diet to a very low carb, high fat approach when you can expect to feel not so good. In fact, you might feel like you have the flu.

Consider for a moment that you’ve been consuming a diet filled with carbohydrates and protein for most of your life. This will have conditioned your body to use glucose (sugar) as a primary fuel source.

By immediately removing all sugar (carbs) from your diet, you’re practically removing a primary energy source from each cell, forcing it to find other means. Essentially, you begin withdrawing from the lack of carbohydrate in your diet.

Additionally, consuming extremely high amounts of fat, such as on a keto diet, can result in feelings of nausea, simply because your body is not used to it. The combination of almost entirely removing carbs, while significantly increasing fat intake, is a perfect combination for feeling pretty awful.

When going through the transition phase, it’s possible that you’ll experience many of the following:

  • Migraines/Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea
  • Muscle Weakness
  • Dehydration
  • Muscle Cramping
  • Brain Fog
  • Irritation

Everyone experiences the transition period differently. From personal experience I’ve had transitions with no flu symptoms yet other times I’ve felt the full force of the transitionary period. Fortunately, there are some steps you can take to at least minimize the symptoms.

Gradually Transition Into Keto

Just as with almost any dieting venture, it’s best to avoid jumping in 100% right from the start. A surefire way to fail with any diet, especially with the ketogenic diet, is to immediately remove all carbs and double, if not triple your fat intake.

A much better idea is to slowly transition your eating habits from a carb-centric approach to sequentially removing carbs from you diet. I recommend that you do so over the course of a few weeks.

For example, my personal favorite is to reduce carbs by around 25% at a time. If you regularly consume 200 grams of carbs each day, you’ll start the transition by reducing to 150 carbs per day. Once you feel comfortable, reduce by an additional 25% until you reach the appropriate amount of carbs for your situation.

With fat, I recommend you follow suit. As you reduce carb intake, you should simultaneously increase fat by 25% until you reach the appropriate amount for the diet.

Sequentially reducing carbs and increasing fat intake will make the transition process far easier than a radical change overnight. 

Stay Hydrated

Staying hydrated is always a good recommendation, but on the keto diet, it’s absolutely essential.

When you practice keto, two things occur that can lead to water loss, making you feel awful. First, by drastically reducing carbohydrates, you reduce the amount of water your body can store.

In the muscle, you have glycogen, which is the stored version of glucose. When this glycogen is stored, each gram brings with it 3 grams of water. The problem is, when you severely restrict carbs, you also begin to deplete glycogen stores, which brings water with it.

Second, since insulin remains low on the ketogenic diet, this also stimulates excess urinary excretion. That means that you’re urinating more and losing fluid more frequently.

While transitioning, I recommend that you make an effort to maintain hydration; otherwise, you may experience severe side effects during your transition.

Use Electrolytes

One other side effect of transitioning to keto and the extra water loss is a reduction of electrolytes such as magnesium, sodium, potassium and calcium. These electrolytes are essential for survival and proper bodily functioning, so you want to ensure you stay on top of it.

Since you’ll be excreting extra water, I recommend that you look into an electrolyte supplement which can be added to your drinking water. Together, this will ensure that you’re maintaining hydration and getting electrolytes at the same time.

Not to mention, much like with Gatorade and other sports drinks, water filled with electrolytes will help you retain water and remain hydrated more effectively. 

Use Glycogen Depletion Workouts

One issue with the transition period is that you’re removing the body’s main energy source: glucose. During this time, the body isn’t fully optimized to run entirely on fat and ketones, which also contributes to many of the flu-like symptoms.

Fortunately, you can significantly speed up the process by using glycogen depletion workouts, or workouts aimed at using up glycogen that’s stored in your muscle. This will also allow you to significantly increase ketone production, which could alleviate your symptoms and expedite the transition process.

To complete glycogen depletion workouts, you want to use full body workouts and stick with higher rep ranges. Otherwise, it’s unlikely that you’ll deplete the muscle of glycogen. Here’s a typical glycogen depletion workout:

  1. Barbell Squats: 2 x 15 reps
  2. Incline Bench Press: 2 x 15 reps
  3. Leg Press: 2 x 15 reps
  4. Lat Pull downs: 2 x 15 reps
  5. Low Cable Biceps Curls 2 x 15 reps / SS / Triceps Pushdowns: 2 x 15 reps
  6. Lying Leg Curls: 2 x 15 reps
  7. Leg Extensions: 2 x 15 reps
  8. Cable Crunches: 2 x 15 reps
  9. Calf Raises: 2 x 15 reps
  10. Repeat

Use Intermittent Fasting

Did you know that the keto diet is actually modeled off of fasting? In fact, the ketogenic diet was created because scientists needed to create similar fasting conditions in the body, without really long durations of actual fasting. See, fasting also forces the body to produce ketones and the ketogenic diet is an attempt to do the same, while being able to continue eating.

Fortunately, fasting can help you transition into keto a bit faster. By spending specific portions of the day fasting, you’ll increase ketone levels. This, in combination with carb restriction, will ensure that your body stays that way.

If you’re interested, I recommend following a standard intermittent fasting approach such as the 16:8 method [16 hours fast with an  8 hour eating window], and adjusting based on how you respond, while also considering your preferences.

Use MCT Oil

Medium-chain triglycerides, otherwise known as MCT oil, can make the transition and the keto diet as a whole, much easier and more effective.

MCT oils are digested differently than other oils. The consumption of most fats requires specific transporters to enter cells to provide energy. MCTs however, bypass this step, entering cells for metabolism with ease.

This not only avoids fat gain, but these MCTs can provide a fast and easy burst of energy, which can help you feel much better when transitioning and during the diet. 

Make Fat Bombs 

Fat bombs are simply keto-friendly snacks that provide a large dose of fat in each serving. Much like a bomb that makes a large explosion, these snacks are sure to provide you with a large amount of energy.

A ketogenic diet demands a very high fat intake, which can often be a bit difficult. When you lack fat intake and are also restricting carbs, it’s likely you’ll feel sluggish and fatigued. Fat bombs make consuming a big dose of fat pretty simple.

Here’s one of my favorite fat bomb recipes: 

Chocolate Coconut Peanut Butter Bombs

Ingredients: 

  • ½ cup Natural Peanut Butter
  • ¼ cup Coconut Oil
  • ½ cup Chopped Walnuts
  • ¼ cup Raw Cacao / Dark Cocoa
  • 2 tbsp. Stevia
  • ¼ cup Coconut Flour
  • ¼ cup Coconut Shavings 

Instructions: 

  1. In a large bowl, combine ingredients and mix (except for coconut shavings & coconut flour).
  2. Once mixed, scoop out with a spoon and roll into ball, bite-sized pieces.
  3. One a flat, clean surface spread a thin layer of coconut flour and coconut shavings.
  4. Taking the rolled bombs, roll onto flour and shavings.
  5. Once rolled, place in refrigerator for 2 hours.
  6. Remove and enjoy!

These fat bombs are certain to provide you with a hefty dose of fat that tastes amazing. You definitely do not want to miss these.

Use Exogenous Ketones

On the ketogenic diet, your main goal is to get into a state of ketosis, where your body is functioning almost entirely on fat and fat byproducts, known as ketones. Unfortunately, ketone levels are entirely dependent on your lack of carb intake and can take some time to accumulate, especially during the transition period.

What’s great is that, with new research and understanding of the ketogenic diet, many companies have begun formulating products that contain salts like Beta-hydroxybutyrate, which happens to be one of the main ketones.

By consuming these products, you can increase the levels of ketones in the blood to that which would be seen in someone who is entirely keto adapted. This will provide the body with ketones as a fuel source, which might help alleviate symptoms of the keto flu, while helping you transition more efficiently.

One such product that I’m particularly fond of is Perfect-Keto, but there are certainly others on the market. I recommend searching for reviews and picking the one you prefer most.

Sleep More

Since you’ll be trying to change your body’s fuel source, your body will be working overtime to transition to using fat, as well as figuring out ways to provide you with the energy you need. This can cause severe fatigue and undoubtedly contributes to many of the side effects of the keto flu.

During the transition period, I recommend that you increase sleep duration and quality. This will ensure that your body is well rested for all of the demands that you’re placing on it.

The Keto Transition

Transitioning from a normal diet to a ketogenic lifestyle can be difficult, to say the least. During this time, it’s likely that you’ll experience what is often referred to as the “keto flu.”

This can lead to many individuals abandoning the diet due to feeling ill. Fortunately, this period is often short-lived and by using the tips in this article, you’ll find that the process is, in fact, a bit simpler to survive.

About the author

Rudy Mawer, MSc, CISSN

Rudy has a 1st class BSc in Exercise, Nutrition & Health and a Masters in Exercise & Nutrition Science from the University of Tampa. Rudy currently works as a Human Performance Researcher, Sports Nutritionist and Physique Coach. Over 7 years he has helped over 500 people around the world achieve long last physique transformations.

He now works closely with a variety of professional athletes and teams, including the NBA, USA Athletics, World Triathlon Gold Medalists, Hollywood Celebrities and IFBB Pro Bodybuilders. If you would like to get in contact or work with Rudy please contact him on social media.

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